Reduce Stress the Free and Easy Way
“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
In first grade I had a teacher Mr Green, who once lifted me on the table to show everyone in the class my new boots. It took a long time for my classmates to forget about that. I’m not sure that would happen today without some serious backlash. I suppose that was my first modeling experience.
Mr Green wore a tweed jacket, grey slacks and comfortable looking brown shoes, always. I’m sure he had seven days worth of the same outfit, each cleaned and ironed daily. He was a stickler for dressing for that purpose. So if you were hiking or shopping, you had to wear clothes and carry equipment for all eventualities. Hence, the reason why he put me on display.
My boots were hiking boots and I was in school. He criticized me for wearing them to school, but also used them as a good example of what to wear for the upcoming school camping trip. I was a shy boy anyway, but this took my blushing to a whole new intensity. I’m pretty sure that my school photo that year was of a size 3 pair of waterproof boots.
Now that was stressful and I couldn’t handle it at all. But I was younger back then. Even so, if it happened today, it would be a different kind of stress, but stress none the same. I have worked hard on both my shyness and how I deal with my stressful moments.
“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.”
Andrew J. Bernstein
I can experience stress at any point in the day or time. I may be at home, work, or on the road, each situation has its own opportunities to be stressful. Ideally, I would go for a quick work out, or yoga class, and all would be reset to calm. Unfortunately, I have other things I need to do. So I need to find other ways to de-stress and regain my peaceful balance.
I use my common senses, sight, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling to practice mindfulness wherever I am. Wherever my senses go, my focus and attention goes. This has a two-fold effect. The first is that my thoughts follow my focus, so that then takes the spotlight away from the stressful ones. That’s using no time or money, and with minimal effort to get back to calm.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
I’ve learned that I can reduce stress in free and easy ways by using my senses and surroundings. Here’s a quick note of how
“Little moments can have a feeling and a texture that is very real.”
If it’s the summer this is as easy as going barefoot on the grass or sand, and laying down on the beach. But those kinds of opportunities are available all the time, especially in winter. So I have to resort to urban tactics to find calm stations. Underfoot it may be the shag pile carpet, that’s as comforting when laying down on it is it is wiggling my toes between the long piles. It can be anything such as a granite worktop, wooden table, wool throw, or silk bed sheets. While in the kitchen waiting for some reason I will touch and feel the raw natural materials around me. There’s a reason it’s warm and comforting in the winter and cool and fresh in the summer, if the materials are the ones produced by Mother nature.
There’s nothing like a bath or shower to reset the stress levels and bring on some soothing feelings. If Ii could I would be swimming in a lake or sea everyday, to wash the stress away. So if the bath or swim are not to hand, then I’ll drink my water instead. Staying hydrated is the key to good health given by every expert. Washing my hands and face, at regular intervals not only maintains hygiene (nice), but also takes the stress out too. I try to use as little water as I need, as it is a resource that’s getting low in supply and cleanliness. But even a quick dash of water is enough to take my thoughts of stress elsewhere.
Bring the outdoors in
“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”
Plants. That’s it. I will talk, sing and dance with them. And they’ll always listen! Every room in my apartment has plants. Taking care of them and nurturing them is relaxing, in itself. But hey also cleanse my apartment of harmful toxins in the air. Clean air is essential for a clear head, and it clears mine daily. Even those who ‘always kill’ plants can find, with good advice, plants that will survive the worst host. And there’s no need to spend extra money on plants. You can use the seeds from fruits and vegetables that you eat. I’ve grown a lemon and avocado tree from their seeds. There’s nothing quite like the smells of jasmine in the summer to calm me down.
“Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”
Easiest by far to do, but as effective as any of the others. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, find the moment to listen. Listen to the sounds two or three layers under the immediate sounds. So when I’m sitting on the balcony, the first layers of noise are the cars. But if I concentrate some more, I’ll hear the trees rustle, a bird chirp or a dogs bark in the distance, talking, and dripping water. The deeper in the layers I go the calmer I am. I dislike noise, and my ears prick up at the sound of someone eating loudly or a door slam. Noise pollution is a thing. But if I let that noise go by and focus on the background noise, I will feel more relaxed.
“I love to see what real human behavior looks like. I’ve always envisioned my job as just observing and noting that and, for the purposes of my work, just cutting out the boring parts.”
Imagine seeing the feelings of thoughts of others. That’s terrifying to me. But I’ve found that being ultra-observant of the people and things around me I can de-stress. I don’t do it in such a way that they’ll likely call the police on me, but in the non-obvious way, without drawing attention to myself. The idea is for less stress at the end of the day. Watch the people move and talk, the animals run and walk, the things do their thing. There’s a sea of information out there, and it’s free for you to dive into. The other upside is that you begin to notice others, and their feelings. Then comes empathy and compassion. And by focusing on life like a moving meditation, I am relaxed.
“No man is lonely eating spaghetti; it requires so much attention.”
Eating and drinking sustains life, without it we’ll perish. It’s something so important, like that of air and water, but how many of us take it for granted? In Eastern tradition there are eating meditations, where a lowly raisin takes center stage. One raisin will be ‘eaten’ and allowed to stay in the mouth while it changes in shape, texture, and taste. All these sensations are acknowledged and focused on. It’s meditating. I incorporate some of these Eastern traditions in my day. I’ll eat slowly and focus on the sensations of different foods on my tongue. And if I way long enough a food will go through a rainbow of flavors and textures before I swallow it. It also helps with the digestion of the food, that’s why my grandfather would tell me to chew my food all the time when I was young. At the time, he knew something I didn’t.
Stress will hang around just outside the door waiting for the most inopportune time to crash in. I don’t want to use too much time, energy or money to keep stress on the outside. So I’ll keep using my common senses to be more mindful and relaxed. It only takes a minute or two, but the benefits are immediate and positive. It’s free.